Hops (Humulus lupulus) is a climbing perennial plant native to North America. It is best known as a flavoring agent in beer but has many other culinary and medicinal uses as well. While it is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, hops may be more likely to cause side effects when taken in larger quantities, according to Drug Information Online 1. Learning about the side effects of hops allows you to use it more safely for maximum benefit.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Hops can be found in some multi-herb supplements for insomnia or nervousness. Like other calming herbs, hops may cause drowsiness in some people. Taking larger doses or combining hops with other sedating herbs or medications may increase the risk of drowsiness. For this reason, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center warns patients to avoid using hops while taking sleep aids, anti-anxiety drugs and similar medications.
- Hops can be found in some multi-herb supplements for insomnia or nervousness.
- For this reason, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center warns patients to avoid using hops while taking sleep aids, anti-anxiety drugs and similar medications.
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Like soy, hops contains phytoestrogens -- plant-based substances that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. While not harmful for most people, phytoestrogens like those in hops may not be safe for patients with a history of breast cancer or other estrogen-related conditions. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center advises pregnant women and those with kidney or liver disease to avoid using hops until more is known about its safety.
Hops can act as an allergy trigger in some people. Pollen Library lists hops as a moderate allergen along with plants like cedar elm and California juniper. Typical nasal allergy symptoms like sneezing, congestion or runny nose may occur after ingesting hops or inhaling its pollen. Rarely, a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis can occur after ingesting hops. Signs of anaphylaxis include low blood pressure, throat swelling and trouble breathing.
- Hops can act as an allergy trigger in some people.
- Signs of anaphylaxis include low blood pressure, throat swelling and trouble breathing.
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When used as directed, hops is not likely to cause dangerous side effects in most people. To further ensure safety, read dosing directions carefully before taking hops and stop using it if you experience bothersome side effects. Ask a doctor before using hops if you take other drugs or supplements that cause drowsiness and avoid driving until you know how hops affects you. If you experience sudden or severe symptoms like rapid heartbeat or throat swelling, seek immediate medical attention.
- When used as directed, hops is not likely to cause dangerous side effects in most people.
- Ask a doctor before using hops if you take other drugs or supplements that cause drowsiness and avoid driving until you know how hops affects you.
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- Drug Information Online: Hops
- Pollen Library: Common Hop: Humulus lupulus
- Bolton JL, Dunlap TL, Hajirahimkhan A, et al. The multiple biological targets of hops and bioactive compounds. Chem Res Toxicol. 2019;32(2):222-233. doi:10.1021/acs.chemrestox.8b00345. Erratum in: Chem Res Toxicol. 2019;32(8):1732.
- Franco L, Sánchez C, Bravo R, et al. The sedative effect of non-alcoholic beer in healthy female nurses. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e37290. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037290
- Franco L, Bravo R, Galán C, Rodríguez AB, Barriga C, Cubero J. Effect of non-alcoholic beer on subjective sleep quality in a university stressed population. Acta Physiol Hung. 2014;101(3):353-61. doi:10.1556/APhysiol.101.2014.3.10
- Salter S, Brownie S. Treating primary insomnia—the efficacy of valerian and hops. Aust Fam Physician. 2010;39(6):433–7. doi:10.1556/APhysiol.101.2014.3.10
- Maroo N, Hazra A, Das T. Efficacy and safety of a polyherbal sedative-hypnotic formulation NSF-3 in primary insomnia in comparison to zolpidem: a randomized controlled trial. Indian J Pharmacol. 2013;45(1):34–9. doi:10.4103/0253-7613.106432
- Erkkola R, Vervarcke S, Vansteelandt S, Rompotti P, De Keukeleire D, Heyerick A. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over pilot study on the use of a standardized hop extract to alleviate menopausal discomforts. Phytomedicine. 2010;17(6):389-96. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.01.007
- Hirata H, Yimin, Segawa S, et al. Xanthohumol prevents atherosclerosis by reducing arterial cholesterol content via CETP and apolipoprotein E in CETP-transgenic mice. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49415. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049415
- Miranda CL, Johnson LA, de Montgolfier O, et al. Non-estrogenic xanthohumol derivatives mitigate insulin resistance and cognitive impairment in high-fat diet-induced obese mice. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):613. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18992-6
- Jiang CH, Sun TL, Xiang DX, Wei SS, Li WQ. Anticancer Activity and Mechanism of Xanthohumol: A Prenylated Flavonoid From Hops (Humulus lupulus L.). Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:530. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00530
- Kyrou I, Christou A, Panagiotakos D, et al. Effects of a hops (Humulus lupulus L.) dry extract supplement on self-reported depression, anxiety and stress levels in apparently healthy young adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover pilot study. Hormones (Athens). 2017;16(2):171-180. doi:10.14310/horm.2002.1738
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Hops. Updated December 9, 2019
Based in Las Vegas, Tracii Hanes is a freelance writer specializing in health and psychology with over seven years of professional experience. She got her start as a news reporter and has since focused exclusively on freelance writing, contributing to websites like Wellsphere, Education Portal and more. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication arts from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.